365 Days of Blogging: Personal Writing Challenge ACCEPTED

I woke up late on New Year’s Day and thought about this blog and about being a writer and all of the things that that means. I want writing to be a daily habit (it nearly is). Why not challenge myself to write a blog post a day for the next 365 days? Make 2015 my Year of Blogging Dangerously?¬†accepted2

I debated keeping it to myself, but if I post it, maybe that will keep me honest. :D

So there you go, Internet. I am unleashing my inner authorly Kraken.

Brace yourselves! IMG_4589 IMG_4766 IMG_4904

The Thirsty Blade: Flash Fiction Dark Fantasy

Henry paused the metal detector where the beeping was steady, just like he’d seen on the telly, and dropped a button on the ground to mark the spot. 

Then, he carefully set the apparatus down, removed his coat, and set about digging. 

His son had called him a fool for taking from his pension to buy the thing, but Henry had a feeling in his gut that he’d find results. If not a buried Roman hoard, perhaps relics from a more recent century that could be worth a few more pounds than the machine had cost. And what else was there to do upon retiring from forty years of keeping a pub?

The spot he’d chosen, just far enough into the woods from the motorway that the sound of engines were a gentle growl, was mossy and overgrown. It reminded him of a fairy tale. The great twisted tree roots and a nearby babbling brook spoke to him of ancient mages and whispering Druids, although whether they’d been prone to whispers or taken vows of silence like monks, he couldn’t recall. Still, it had seemed the best place to start his hunting. 

When his spare hit something hard, he knew that he had been right to follow his instinct. Bugger his son for refusing to take chances and get the most out of life!

“Well, once you’ve stood behind that counter for another twenty-five or thirty years, perhaps you’ll be looking for adventure, yourself,” he muttered, sinking creakily to his knees. 

Dampness seeped into the cloth on his knees, and he knew the dirt and moss were likely to leave stains on his slacks, but the faint glint of metal in the clods of earth took away that care, too.

Henry reached into the hole to brush the metal clean. To his astonishment, it wasn’t a box or a decorative rod. It was a sword. 

“I’ve found bloody Excalibur!” He laughed aloud. 

Even though the little dell was shaded from the summer sun, Henry was sweating and his chest heaving with effort by the time he’d uncovered the rest of the thing. Whether it could be properly termed a broadsword or a longsword, he couldn’t be certain, but it was — or had been — a beauty. The hilt was intricately designed with inlays and carvings peeking out from under centuries of dirt and tarnish, and the blade was whole, though edged with notches and blackened by time.

“Poor old thing,” he told it, shaking a hanky open to wipe it down. “Not even broken. Put out to pasture and forgotten before your time, eh? Buried away from slaying dragons and rescuing maidens just when life was getting good? Well, I know how that feels. Indeed I do.”

The hilt felt friendly in his hand. Manly. Henry stood up with it and automatically straightened his shoulders, running the fingers of his open hand along its tarnished edge. One callused finger caught on a crack. He started at the little burst of hurt, nearly dropping the sword in shock. 

“Blast, wasn’t expecting that.” 

He leaned the sword on a tree trunk to fetch a thermos of clean water from his pack. It was short work to rinse his cut. Even shorter to realize that the place on the sword where it had cut him was . . . Clean.

Henry stared. “Blimey.”

He moved closer and adjusted his spectacles. Wiped them on the least bit of dirty shirttail, just in case. There was no mistaking, though — that small spot on the blade’s edge where he’d cut himself, a section no bigger than his thumbnail, gleamed as brightly as a polished mirror. 

“How could that be?” Henry wondered aloud. 

A wind rattled the leaves of the tree, and the summer sun seemed to disappear, leaving a dark chill behind it. Time to leave. Henry shivered, putting his coat back on for a moment before taking it off again. He laid it flat and wrapped the sword in it for the walk back to the car park. No need for anyone else to see his finding, after all. There would be too many unnecessary questions, if someone noticed him tucking a great dirty sword in the dented boot of his car.

When he got it home, Henry locked the sword in his old kit from the war, washed up, and had his tea. He knew he ought to go to bed, but his thoughts were still filled with knights and castles, so he sat at the old computer that his son called a relic and logged onto the World Wide Web to see if he could find some answers. 

How did one clean an old sword, anyhow?

He supposed he could call the curator of a museum, or an antiques specialist, but it was in the back of his mind that they might try to take the sword from him. And he simply could not let that happen. It belonged to him, now.

Henry hadn’t felt this good in years. So energized and full of purpose. He barely noticed the passage of the afternoon into evening, or evening into night. When his son phoned in the morning, as usual, he was still at his computer, and he didn’t take the call. 

Which was why Peter came round at 10.

“Dad! Have you been sitting there all night?”

Henry turned in his chair to gaze blearily at his grown-up child. “Oh. Peter. Hallo. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“You didn’t answer your phone. Had me a bit worried, you know.” Peter tsked, looking over Henry’s shoulder at the computer screen. “What’s this nonsense you’re looking at now? Swords?”

“Yes, yes! You’ll never believe what I found!” Henry pushed away from the table and rose with little of his usual difficulty, in spite of the hours he’d sat in the chair, and went to his kit. Peter was close behind, demanding answers in a steady stream of belligerent remarks, mainly the usual claptrap about wasting money and remembering to keep putting extra by, for the sake of the future.

“Well, if it is worth something, ithe sword will be your inheritance instead of bits of my pension!” Henry snapped. He pulled the sword out, his hand comfortably gripping the hilt as though it had always done so, and turned on one bended knee to show his tarnushed treasure to his son.

He underestimated how quickly he could turn. Was used to his bones creaking and his joints aching. Peter was standing too closely, as he’d been wont to do for years, invading Henry’s space in an effort to be helpful. 

The blackened and uneven blade sliced cleanly through Peter’s side, cutting kidney and intestine right up to the ribcage, where it caught. Henry and Peter stared at each other. Then, following his instinct, Henry put his weight behind the hilt, changed his grip, and thrust the blade upward, cleaving his son’s  chest in two. 

Peter’s mouth fell open and then his head dropped down as though he wanted to watch the sword’s gleaming metal sliding free of the sheath of his body. Henry couldn’t take his own eyes off it, barely glancing as his son’s corpse hit the floor. Under the layer of swiftly clotting blood and matter, threads of fabric and bits of skin, the blade shone almost like new. And then, before his astonished gaze, the blood disappeared. He blew the dried bits of material off the sword, marveling at its craftsmanship and beauty.

“Now that’s a way to clean you up, isn’t it?” Henry whistled, long and low. He turned the blade this way and that, noting how the shine ended where the blood had stopped. He rose to his feet, his back straighter than it had been in years. Henry felt like a new man.

But when he experimentally dipped the last of the tarnished bits in his son’s open wound, there was no noticeable effect.

“Ah, I think I understand, my sir,” Henry told the blade. “I worked in a pub for forty years. I know a thirsty customer when I see one. And only a fresh pint’ll do, won’t it?”

He stepped over Peter and headed for the door. The young fellow who lived next door, who’d kicked his car and dented it — Henry could often hear him outside, strutting about with his mates. He couldn’t wait to see what the bastard lay-about thought of his new sword.

The Necronomicon Takes Shape

I’m a little concerned about flaking here and there, but the paint on the back is nearly done. I may apply a second coat, and a wash of gloss of some kind. Modge-podge? Watered-down glue? 

I tried highlighting with red first, but it got almost completely covered, so in the second coat I may mix the red and black together a bit, to a really dark shade that isn’t quite black, try that out. Also wondering whether I might be able to work in some highlighting with glow-in-the-dark paint. It’s green, though. Anyway, I think (hope) that the layer(s) of paint will help to combat the flaking. 

The real Necronomicon would never be so frail . . . (Sigh)

Debating whether to do the second coat on the back tomorrow, or do the first coat on the front. Decisions, decisions . . . Very relaxing, though, crafting and painting a Book of the Dead, even if the fumes are making me feel a bit crummy. That might be due to being over-tired again and not quite fed enough at supper, though. 

Starting to contemplate building a collection of famous/pop culture magical books. Like Winifred’s spell book from Hocus Pocus — one of my colleagues might be able to help me create a moving eyeball! I’ve also seen gorgeous reproductions of the Book of Shadows in Practical Magic

All of this is ultimately procrastination on cleaning, of course. But it’s so darned much fun!

The Deep Satisfaction of the Back . . .


. . . cover. 

Yes, there are other backs that are also lovely and enticing to behold. Like this one:

And this one:

Yeesh, do you know how hard it is to find decent shots of people’s backs? And they’re one of my favourite body parts! 

But I’m digressing in my search for appropriate illustrations. This is about back covers. Like this: 

No, wait, sorry, I meant THIS:

I finished covering the back of my Necronomicon and put the fan on it — after almost 24 hours, the front bottom still had some dampness. So I turned it upside down before starting on the “skin”.

It’s satisfying when you look at the back of anything and see that it got as much (or more) attention as the front. Because when you finish the story, it’s the last thing you might look at. For some, it’s also the first — you might go right from perusing the blurb on the rear (or looking for it there) to diving into the first page. It gives an impression of wholeness, a job done properly and thoroughly. Quality vs knock-off.

I like movie credits with surprises and Easter eggs and hidden scenes. Trains with cabooses. Covers tucked in at the bottom. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t really a back issue, but it’s all about balance, folks.

For writers, seeing the back cover of your own book is particularly thrilling, because it unequivocally indicates the end of the project. It’s just as or more fulfilling as writing “the end” on the last page of your draft. Bitter-sweet, actually.

What brings on all of this is that I am debating whether to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I’d be starting right after the end of the Haunted House. I want that satisfaction of working toward and seeing another back cover, but I also see more exhaustion on the horizon. I worry about taking on too much. 

But the thing about NaNo is that it is for me. I can change my word count. Write on my own time. 

On the other hand, I recall last year wanting to sleep for a week after the event ended and was cleaned up. 

It’s a tough decision to make, and time is ticking.

The peace of a productive family night


We had what was, to my mind, a perfect moment this evening after supper. 

Bridget was building and playing in her fantasy world (Minecraft), learning how to spell words like “diary” and “no one” and “secret” and “allowed”.

Jack was finishing his math homework, relaxed and focused, having brought home stellar progress reports from the first month of school.

Hubby was sitting next to me on the couch while I knitted my scarf, occasionally sharing funny videos and articles with me. And playing with the dog. 

 The TV was off, unneeded. It’s amazing how much easier it has become to turn it off without cable, having our favourite series and films completely on demand without ads. Much preferred over the old stand-by.

And now, as I sit waiting to pick up our teenager from karate, Hubby is helping Bridget with her math, exhibiting much more patience and firm guidance than I could have with her. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes struggle to keep the emotional coolness needed to help with homework after a long day. I get frustrated trying to help her. But Mark understands her and how her mind works, to a far greater degree, in part because she shares many of his personality traits and likely has similar learning disabilities. Certainly, the diagnosis last year of Bridget having a mild intellectual disability fits, and while it’s not quite what he had to struggle against in his youth, it’s close enough. He can relate to her and be the firm voice that she needs. 

 I think kids just listen differently to one parent than another, especially when one tends to be a pushover (I blame years of being over-tired, particularly while anemic). Or they listen to certain authority figures differently than a mom or a dad. That’s why it takes a village to raise a child: it’s far easier to tune out the voice that’s around even fractionally more frequent, than the voice called in to take over, pinch-hit, or teach a skill set that is one’s own weakness.

It’s much later, now. Bridget is in bed, and by some miracle, she not only finished her math with her dad, she also VOLUNTARILY learned to — by the holiest of Holies — wash the toilet. 

Bridget. Cleaned. The. Toilet. 

This child, who whined and outright refused for MONTHS whenever I told her to clean the toilet, begging for other jobs to do (and doing them with less and less fanfare), sulking on the couch earlier, scrubbed the toilet with Scrubbing Bubbles’ disposable brush thingy. 

I am in heaven. 

And I made time to layer the front of the Necronomicon with papier mache — got creative with a little corn starch (and salt for preservative), seeing as I forgot to bring glue home. 

Yes. It’s been a good night.

Project: Necronomicon 

(Before I start, let me just say that I love how Autocorrect and Google automatically know that the Necronomicon is a thing!)

I decided this evening to get going on my very own, top-of-the-charts, awesome Raimi-inspired Book of the Dead. Found a handy guide on Instructables and a fortunately-sized piece of cardboard in a TV box. Determined that parchment paper would be a funky material for pages because a) I didn’t want to wait on going to the dollar store to get easily-ripped scrapbook paper, and b) parchment paper looks freaking gorgeous when it’s been browned in an oven or stained by tea. At the moment, it keeps wanting to roll back into its storage shape, but I’m hoping that being stuck between the covers will convince it to behave. 

I ended up hand-sewing the binding instead of taping because I am a masochist who goes for detail! And I couldn’t find the duct tape until later. And the shipping tape wasn’t sticking to the parchment paper.

Looking creepier! The instructions said to add wrinkles with more duct tape. Result:

My son says it looks like a girl at the spa, wearing a mud mask while talking about other people. 


Tomorrow I will start the covering process. The instructions say to use masking tape, but I’m feeling wild and crazy — going to run with layers of papier mache, using glue and water with paper towel or toilet paper. In my mask-making experience, the effect is really good, creating a nice texture as long as the pieces have ripped or jagged edges (vs straight). Plus, the added bonus of a bit of pores showing here and there! 

After that dries, I will have at it with paint, singe and brown the pages, and then research the spells and diagrams for some awesome authenticity. 

Gods, I love Hallowe’en! 

(Small voice whispers: I’d love it even more if I had a clean house and all our decorations out . . .)

Addendum: my daughter just saw it! She looked horrified and told me I was weird, but that may have been due to the creepy chuckle I was giving. Muahahaaaa!